Breaking Records – How Running Inspires Life

Breaking Records - how running inspires life

Friday nights are not what they were in my twenties. I would think nothing of heading out for the night at the same time I’m brushing my teeth these days, or staying out until the wee hours back then. Now, with two littles tucked into bed upstairs, Friday night for me looks like a glass of wine and watching or reading something until I finally decide I need to get my butt to bed. 

But last Friday night I was glued to #BREAKING2 that Runner’s World was live streaming. I admit, I did not make it to the end, but I watched the last few minutes Saturday morning when I woke up and I am just in awe of these amazing athletes and their dedication, work and talent. 


Okay, so what was #BREAKING2? The answer depends on if you’re cynical or not. The event was organized by Nike and it could be construed as an elaborate publicity stunt for their new Vaporfly shoes. It was a marathon distance run held in Italy (on a Formula 1 track, no less), with the one and only goal to see one of their three athletes break 2 hours in the marathon distance. (For reference, the current world record for the marathon is 2:02:57, set in 2014 by Dennis Kimetto in Berlin.) I’m pretty sure even Nike thought it was a total long shot. Even if you think of it as hyped-up advertising though, nothing can take away the athleticism and ability of the three athletes attempting to not only break a record, but break a barrier thought of as near-impossible.

In the end, of the three men running – Zersenay Tadese, Eliud Kipchoge and Lelisa Desisa – only Kipchoge was on pace to run sub-2:00 almost throughout the race, slowing slightly in the final miles, to finish an agonizing 2:00:25. Agonizing for getting so close to sub 2:00 and agonizing because holy hell can you imagine how your body would feel after pushing it to that kind of limit? In a distance where seconds can dictate world records, Kipchoge ran more than 2 and a half minutes faster than the current world record. That is INSANE. (And yes, Kimetto is still the world record holder, since this was not a recognized event for the record.)

There are always those times, those arbitrary numbers, that are considered unattainable for humans when it comes to running. Look at the history of the mile distance. Record-keeping for that race distance began sometime in the second half of the 19th century and hovered above the 4 minute mark for decades, nearly a century, in fact. It was lowered to 4:02:6 and then 4:01:4 by Arne Andersson and Gunder Hagg in 1944 and 1945 respectively, at which point the idea of a sub-4 minute mile being impossible was the general consensus. The Second World War kept it on the back burner for years, until Roger Bannister crushed it on May 6th, 1954, running a mile in 3:59:4.

What is most fascinating about that story, though, is that once Bannister proved it could be done; that 4 minutes was not some sort of human speed set point; that 4:00 time was broken again and again and again. Check out this list (unofficial, since I’m sure not every race has been documented) showing nearly 5000 people who can claim sub-4 status.

It makes me think of a scientist assuming their experiment will fail because it’s considered impossible. Whether it’s sub-conscious or not, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and the attempt does fail. But when that eureka moment happens for a peer and there is a glimpse of what is not only possible, but maybe also only the start of what could be attainable, the scientist re-attempts their experiment and what do you know? It works.

Running, like anything we work at and strive to do our best in, is at heart a metaphor for life. If you want something, you need to set your goal, make a plan, and work your butt off to achieve it. So what if we were to stretch that metaphor and ask ourselves – what are the limitations we have set in place in our minds for ourselves? What goals have we considered and decided were impossible, based on what we believe we can achieve? What if we knew they could be a possibility? 

Sometimes I see sayings like “Anything is possible!” written in pretty font on a meme to be shared and I kind of write it off as just fluff. But what if what you don’t dare dream of is possible? What if you just have to work impossibly hard and get the right lucky breaks (because we all know perfect race conditions are like a unicorn) and it could actually all fall into place.

What’s your impossible dream? Do you think working toward something and believing you’ll succeed makes you more likely to do so?


  1. I didn’t get a chance to watch because I was out on a trip, but I’m just so shocked how fast those guys are. I also kind of like that people are pushing so hard to achieve great goals, especially in recent years. Seeing FKT’s smashed on distance trails or seeing events like Breaking 2 are just so incredible!

  2. Jan Hilder says:

    My impossible dream – to have our daughter & family closer to home.

  3. Hey, great article! I gotta say for sure that running inspires life. Basically not only running for me, but every sport that you’re trying your best at and you aim at certain goals you have set for yourselves!
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